Another Friday, another Newsround. What do we have for you?
Eviction cases to re-start after 23 August
Relief on the part of landlords and panic on the part of tenants and tenants organisations with the announcement that the stay on evictions will not continue after 23 August.
However, there are grave concerns about how the courts will handle the massive backlog of claims. Indeed a letter was sent to the Lord Chancellor by Arla Propertymark CEO David Cox saying
Based on the UK Government’s mortgage and landlord possession statistics for 2019 ARLA Propertymark estimate that when the stay on possession claims expires there will be a potential backlog of over 62,000 “business as usual” landlord possession claims to be processed across England and Wales, without even considering any claims for possession that may have arisen directly as a result of COVID-19.
Data from the UK Government found that 17 per cent of landlord possession claims were using the accelerated procedure, leaving a not inconsiderable 52,000 claims requiring court hearings.
This extraordinary number of claims will undoubtedly be replicated in other areas of the court’s work and will require a robust strategy to ensure these cases are heard.
Further, the 2019 landlord possession statistics provide that 68 per cent of landlord possession claims result in an Order for Possession being granted by the courts.
Using these statistics, approximately 40,000 Possession Orders would have been granted to landlords had the court been operating normally and these are now part of the ever-accumulating backlog; again, not taking into account the impact claims directly relating to COVID-19.
Cox points out that, assuming an average rent of £193 per week, landlords who issued before the stay was granted will have incurred an average rental loss of £8,549 as a result of the coronavirus measures.
He urges government to work with and engage with industry bodies (and not just focus on tenant organisations) to ensure that the needs of landlords and agents are taking into account, and ensure that all sides have adequate legal advice and advocacy to prevent further costly delays.
Ben Beadle, Chief Executive of the National Residential Landlords Association, also pointed out that:
It is vital … that swift action can be taken against those tenants committing anti-social behaviour or domestic violence. We are calling also for priority to be given to cases where possession orders were granted prior to lockdown or where rent arrears have nothing to do with the COVID pandemic.
The housing Minister of State in the Lords, Lord Greenhalgh has confirmed:
Work is underway with the judiciary, legal representatives and the advice sector on arrangements, including new rules, to ensure that judges have all the information necessary to make just decisions and that the most vulnerable tenants can get the help they need when possession cases resume
The Housing Possession Court Duty Scheme will have problems, particularly if hearings are to be held remotely (as we have discussed in previous Newsround‘s) and particularly where tenants do not own any computer equipment or find it hard to use.
It is understood that the courts are working on a new ‘pre-action protocol’ to apply to private evictions in the same way as the current protocol applies to social housing evictions but we have yet to see a draft. There are also likely to be extended court hours to tackle the backlog.
Tsunami or trickle?
There is also a dispute over the number of cases that will be going through the courts resulting in homelessness. Generation Rent estimate that 592,000 renters are in arrears and could make 45,000 households homeless. However, the NRLA says their research of more than 2,000 tenants shows 90% have been able to pay their rent while 82% have not needed to ask for support.
I suspect the true answer will lie somewhere in between.
Generation Rent is calling for the government to introduce a Coronavirus Home Retention Scheme to clear rent arrears not covered by the welfare system by guaranteeing landlords income up to 80% of the rent. Which I am sure landlords associations will not argue with. Although from this article it looks as if this is unlikely.
Joint Guidance Issued
ARLA Propertymark, the Chartered Institute of Housing, MyDeposits, the Tenancy Deposit Scheme, the Property Redress Scheme and the National Residential Landlords Association have jointly created a guidance document that advises landlords and tenants how to negotiate including ways to agree on rent deferrals, reductions and suspensions.
You will find it here.
Thermal imaging to detect Covid
An interesting post on Property Industry Eye discusses the use of thermal imaging to detect skin temperature (a high temperature can be an early sign of Covid). A system has been installed by Haslams Estate Agents. Steve Woodford, Haslams’ Managing Director said:
It is a quick and non-invasive way of checking peoples’ temperature when they come into the office and people are quite happy to do it as they realise that it is there to safeguard them and others and it provides some reassurance in these anxious times.
Legal & General commits to net zero carbon
I was delighted to read that Legal & General intends to make all its new housing stock operational net-zero carbon enabled by 2030.
Housing is a huge contributor to carbon emissions. This is a nettle which government will need to grasp for all existing and future housing stock and it is important that all new housing has proper standards. So it is good to know that one of the UK’s largest housebuilders is taking this approach.
Nigel Wilson, Chief Executive of Legal & General, commented:
We have to Build Back Better after Covid-19.
Construction is rocket fuel for UK economic growth: every pound invested delivers a threefold economic multiplier and the housebuilding sector provides jobs and vital economic resilience.
But as we accelerate building, we have to avoid stoking up a climate crisis that would be at least as serious as the COVID emergency.
Across our own housing platform, we continue to invest and progress planning for future developments, providing much needed economic stimulus and accelerating the delivery of homes across the UK.
We are doing this with climate firmly in mind.
Good. What about other housebuilders? As was pointed out here – Boris’s exhortation to ‘build, build, build, must ensure that this building is to zero carbon standards.
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